Paul Pogba has been superb at Juventus across recent seasons, establishing himself as a talented midfielder who can dominate world football for the next decade. So, was Manchester United’s decision to let him leave for free the worst transfer choice ever?
If not, it cannot be far from it.
Juventus are now supposedly facing widespread interest in signing Pogba for anything upwards of £60million from various huge teams, ironically including the Red Devils. The Red Devils let Pogba go for free in 2012. Yes, Sir Alex Ferguson, considered by many to the best football manager even seen, let one of his best young players leave for free. It’s almost unbelievable.
Even worse than that, Ferguson made the error of giving Pogba various opportunities to display his talent on the first-team stage before sorting a contract renewal out, naturally spiking the interest of other top clubs. Pogba’s talent has been evident from the start, and he could have been the fulcrum of United’s new midfield under Louis Van Gaal. He may yet still be that, but only for a hefty price tag.
Pogba will probably return to Old Trafford, either to help a European giant knock the Red Devils out of the Champions League, or in a full-time return to Manchester.
Regardless of whether United ever re-sign Pogba, letting him leave for free, given his obvious outstanding talent, has to rank as one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s biggest transfer mistakes. If Pogba continues to fulfil his potential across this next decade, the decision will definitely become worse than allowing experienced centre-half Jaap Stam to leave.
Juventus were naturally delighted to acquire Pogba for free after the midfielder claimed the contract offer from United was disrespectfully low. The 21 year-old has since excelled, contributing seven assists and seven goals across 36 appearances last season, and already displacing leadership qualities, particularly in big matches. Highly impressive, particularly for one so young.
Pogba’s impressive performances have now led to the midfielder being linked with all the top European clubs, and he certainly would be a valuable addition to any of them. As one of, if not the, top box-to-box midfielder in the world currently, United could do far worse than swallow their pride and get Pogba back, even with his high price.
Of course there are dozens, even hundreds, of worthy competitors with the Pogba fiasco for the worst piece of transfer business ever. Fans often cite examples such at Fernando Torres at Chelsea and Andy Carroll at Liverpool in failing to live up to expectations coming from high transfer fees.
However, these are unfair and cannot compare to United’s error with Pogba, as both strikers did make decent contributions for their new clubs before eventually moving on. Not quite matching expectations is very different to letting one of the world’s best go for free.
Athletico Madrid did the latter when deciding not to give Raul a contract as a youth player – the striker joined rivals Real and scored on his home debut in the local derby. Three hundred and twenty Real Madrid goals later and that looks a pretty poor decision.
Blackburn Rovers did something as criminal when turning down the legendary Zinedine Zidane, a rare bad decision from the brilliant Sir Jack Walker. Thirteen major trophies later and it turns out maybe Zidane would have been better than Tim Sherwood, who Walker had decided made the Frenchman an unnecessary signing.
Though it is unfair to burden Pogba with comparisons to Zidane, the young midfielder certainly has all the assets to make Manchester United to make Sir Alex Ferguson, on this rare occasion, rather foolish.